Nestrobber’s Hands

Four days since Colleen had last eaten, which she knew was not a world record and probably not even a local one, but it was her longest stretch of time so far, a fact she regarded with a certain bleak approval. It had been a solid meal: ham, eggs, toast, coffee, pie and ice cream. It had taken all her money — ten dollars — and had made her sick and constipated. She had no regrets.

She had too much pride or foolish obstinate wilfullness to steal food from dumpsters or to dine and dash or to eat and then admit smilingly her inability to pay. They were dirty habits, and though she had many dirty habits, she did not have those particular dirty habits. And so four days had gone by without anything solid to eat. The drinking fountains around the city were free, if unclean. Water was not an issue, would not be an issue until winter came and the pipes froze. By then she would have to have moved on, farther south, into Oklahoma or Mexico maybe.

She had found a mattress and a gray and plague-splotched blanket and slept on these when the hunger made her shake and slaver fruitlessly. The hairs were growing in white upon her arms, which she dimly thought was a bad sign.

Her dreams were all about food, charbroiled steaks, mountains of eggs, fresh and honeyed bread, thick, creamy milk. Sweet and crusty pie. The blanket when she woke was twisted and soaked with her dreams, with the residue of her nocturnal desire.